Sunday Morning Opera: The Wagner Version


Richard Wagner’s birthday was May 22.  Even though Verdi is my favorite, I think Tannhauser might be my favorite opera, especially the Met’s legendary production of it.  I suspect I may have seen it more than any other production at the Met.  I’ve seen some legends in it – Jon Vickers, Richard Cassilly.  I think of all the operas, today, more damage has been done by just vile productions than to any other opera.  Sure,  expect Wagner would have opted for an orgy during the Venusberg scene and maybe the introduction, but really, now.  And, if I were staging it, I would have Elizabeth and Venus played by the same person. I am a total bitch about the overture, which needs to be played fairly fast, not in slow motion. One of the reasons I love Tannhauser of all Wagner, is it has such a beautiful baritone role.

My father was hilarious over the Venusberg scene. My mother and I forced him to go to the Met with his. His comment, afterward was if he had known what went on in an opera, he would have gone – sooner.

The most beautiful version of O du mein holder Abendstern is now a legend, one of those moments in time, we don’t know to treasure while it occurs.  I still can’t watch it or listen, though.  But, it is the best version – perfect.

I can’t find that much with Richard Cassilly on YouTube. At least I was able to locate this.

I list this because it is the only full version I can locate with Richard Cassilly as Tannhauser. BUT – The Met has a DVD of the production – with Cassilly. I saw him, years ago, in Atlanta when the Met was on tour. He did Tannhauser on Monday night. On Tuesday, someone else was scheduled to do Otello, but was ill. He pulled off one a legendary doubleheader, with Sherrill Milnes as Iago. Both nights provided two of the most staggering performances I was ever honored to experience.